By Sarah Zeines
Thursday, January 20, 2022
NEWS - ANALYSIS
This post is an on-site edited version of The Geneva Observer's bimonthly newsletter SUSTAINED —THE GREENWASHING RADAR: SUSTAINABILITY CLAIMS DECODED, January 19 2022 edition. To receive SUSTAINED directly in your inbox, register here.
Is vertical farming one of the perfume industry’s sustainable saviors? Geneva-based industry leader Firmenich has just paired up with French agricultural tech giant Jungle, in an apparent quest for a more sustainable version of the signature muguet (lily-of-the-valley) ingredient, a high-value flower sought out by all the major actors in the business.
The company’s claim:
The partnership brings more than just the scent of sustainability to the production process, according to the company’s spokesperson Fabien Tisserand: “Jungle’s vertical farming capacities, which use less water and soil, as well as healthy products devoid of chemicals or pesticides, are completely aligned with Firmenich’s ESG ambitions. The whole procedure is respectful of the environment: Once heated by electromagnetic vibrations, water carries the scent components in order to deliver the pure extract at the end. Muguet Firgood is a 100% natural product, obtained thanks to a safe and sustainable procedure. This partnership also frees us from the seasonal constraints linked to the flower’s supply.”
SUSTAINED asked Dr. Pascal Bonvin to assess the claim…
According to the head of the agronomy department at the Haute École Du Paysage, D'ingénierie Et D'architecture De Genève (HEPIA), vertical farming is a viable option for high market value plants, such as lily-of-the-valley or decorative orchids, which benefit from highly sterile environments. In the great outdoors, the coveted flowers are exposed to a number of contaminants which threaten production outcomes. “This type of partnership is essential for certain niches, as this case illustrates, but in no way could it represent the future of food production,” highlights Bonvin.
Indeed, when it comes to the bigger SDG picture, the technique’s added value is lacking. “Vertical farming requires high water input and energy consumption, which can make it non-competitive (depending on the product) and non-virtuous from an environmental perspective," analyzes Bonvin. “Based on my knowledge, vertical farming for food-crop production is a futuristic fantasy, but does not have any real benefits in economic and environmental terms. All of the existing studies show that food security and ecosystem viability depend on soil plantations.”